Some Thoughts and Excerpts from 2014’s Book List

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Dec 25 2014

2014 was another year of “the plan only survives first enemy contact”, which I take as part of the basic pattern of life and thus ain’t stressing.

Stay Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine by Critchley and Webster.

My best book BY FAR of 2014. If I had to describe the question that the authors are trying to answer it would be: Can we broaden our understanding of Hamlet through the lens of Nietzsche and Foucalt, not as a academic or pretentious exercice futile, but as a way to expand our understanding of the nature of man.

Some excerpts:

On Love: “As Hegel writes somewhere in a note, love is the most monstrous contradiction. It defies understanding. To love is to give what one does not have and to receive that over which one has no power.

To love is to freely negate the stubborness that is the self and to live in loyalty to an affirmation that can dissolve like morning mist with the first experience of betrayal. To be or not to be – is that the question? Perhaps not. Perhaps love is a negation of the being of my selfish self that binds itself to naught, to little nothings in the hope of receiving back something that exceeds my power, my ability, my willful control, even my finitude.

Love is an admission of the power of powerlessness that cuts through the binary opposition of being and not being. Of course, there are other existential choices on display in Hamlet: Claudius’ world of espionage and brutal political power, Polonius’ foolish scholarship and and mastery of cliche, Gertrude’s conquest of personal satisfaction in the name of survival, Hamlet Junior’s inhibited, suicidal, and chatty nihilism, even Hamlet Senior’s spectral fiction of the existence of great men and kingly nobility.

But we have tried to listen to something else in the distracted globe of Hamlet, words whispered in the wings, some other way of loving.”

On psychoanalysis: “The modesty of analysts is such that they only issue a call. This is what you are! It is not in their power to set any human defect, if there even is such a thing, right. They can only help to bring you toward a gap in yourself, a place of radical loss in the abyss of desire. Give yourself to it.”

Like most great works, and this surely qualifies, you are left with more questions than answers. But one gets the distinct impression that the authors have laid out a treasure map of authors who can both illuminate Hamlet but also receive illumination from the play as well.

The Law, Frederic Bastiat

As much a philosophical treatise as a book on the purest juris prudence, Bastiat’s work is a brief and clearly laid out explanation of the source of the law and it’s application. Both the episteme and the techne.

On the source of law: “It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty and property exist. On the contrary, it is because of personality, liberty and property exist beforehand that men make laws. What then is law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.”

On law in the hands of government, which is especially apt to the (finally recognized) travesty of civil forfeiture: “It has acted in direct opposition to it’s proper end; it has destroyed it’s own object; it has been employed in annihilating that justice which it ought to have established, in effacing amongst Rights, that limit which was its true mission to respect; it has placed the collective force in the service of those who wish to traffic, without risk and without scruple, in the persons, the liberty, and the property of others; it has converted plunder into a right, that it may protect it, and lawful defense into a crime, that it may punish it.”

The Bed of Procrustes, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

To describe my level of man crush on Taleb would circle us right back to Critchley/Webster’s concept of infinite love. I can’t overstate the level of true thinking with which Taleb examines what most would describe as “business” or “economics” or “math”, but which is fundamentally the nature of man.

On Plato: “In twenty-five centuries, no human came along with the brilliance, depth, elegance, wit, and imagination to match Plato – to protect us from his legacy.”

On Wisdom: “It takes a lot of intellect and confidence to to accept what makes sense doesn’t make sense.”

On the “Seven Season”: “At any stage, humans can thirst for money, knowledge, or love; sometimes for two, never for three”

On meditation: “Meditation is a way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone.”

On seeking advice: “When we want to do something while unconsciously certain to fail, we seek advice so we can blame someone else.”

Honorable Mention:

Fairies and Fusiliers, Robert Graves

The child alone a poet is:
Spring and Fairyland are his.
Truth and Reason show but dim,
And all’s poetry with him.

Brave Genius, by Sean Carroll

Sean Carrol qualifies as a “brave genius” to try to tackle this subject. Imagine trying to describe the philosophical and literary merits and personal history of the great Albert Camus along with the Nobel winning chemist Jacques Monod. How they fought together during the French Resistance, became friends, and struggled through their adult lives to balance success, philosophical contradiction, and penser pour penser versus deep thinking for the sake of humanity.

The rest of the list:

I can “recommend” all of these without hesitation. To justly describe them in a blurb is to discredit them.

Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, Prometheus Bound
Richard III, Shakespeare
The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare
Relativity, Einstein
QED, Feynman
Plutarch’s Lives: Ceaser
Plutarch’s Lives: Brutus
Shakespeare: Julius Ceaser
Shakespeare: Hamlet
Stay Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine, Critchley & Webster,
Letters of Seneca, Seneca
Ali and Nino, Said
The German Mujahid, Sensal
A Scanner Darkly, Dick
Desolation Island, O’Brian
Genome, Ridley
The Fortune of War, O’Brian
The Surgeon’s Mate, O’Brian
The Ionian Mission, O’Brian
Treason’s Harbor, O’Brian
The Far Side of the World, O’Brian
Henry IV, Part I, Shakespeare
The Reverse of the Medal, O’Brian
The Letter of Marque, O’Brian
The Thirteen Gun Salute, O’Brian
The Nutmeg of Consolation, O’Brian
Plutarch’s Lives, Lycurgus
Iliad, Homer
The Truelove, O’Brian
Guard, Guard, Pratchett

*Note: not many (in fact I think only one) of these books came out in 2014, but that’s when I got around to reading them.

**To see the original 2014 List, click here.

***To see the 2015 list so far, click here.

****If you have suggestions, please post to comments.

Training Through Injury

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Nov 18 2014


I’ve trained a lot of folks that have been injured and admittedly it’s challenging for me as a coach, but much harder for the athlete. The thing that I think is most important in keeping folks training in general is seeing tangible progress and being a part of the group. Without this anyone would get discouraged.

Our training is geared for progress for the able bodied athlete. When you’re injured, that structure gets replaced by something that’s effective, but not in the same way for everyone. For instance, if you have an upper body injury that keeps you from pushing and pulling, your structure is going to be built on much more lower body training (I get it, these are keen insights…..).

I’ve created and executed a ton of training templates for folks with injuries and seen tons of progress in terms of both healing the affected body part(s) and in building strength/endurance in the healthy body parts. But folks don’t want that, myself included. We want to be doing the same thing as everyone else and doing it well, seeing improvement. It’s tough to come to the WOD classes and do something different.

So if you’re injured and getting discouraged you have two options:
1) Suck it up, #justshowup, and do what I tell you. You’ll get healthy and you’ll still see improvement, just not the same as everyone else.
2) Sign up for personal training. This way we can create an independent structure for you that will show you tangible progress in what you need specifically.
3) Take a break and see a professional. Our in house chiro, Dr. Jordan or massage therapist Dave Marsh are here to help!

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 141113]

Paleo Challenge Wrap Up

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Nov 06 2014

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As many of you know, our Fall Paleo Challenge just ended. Congrats to the Paleo Challenge Powe Couple/Winners: Garrett R. and Karen S. They both crushed it.

If you don’t know how we Run the Paleo Challenge, it’s mostly a performance based competition. We rank you on an initial three WODs, your improvement in three WODs, and your before and after photos. Whoever has the best rank combined on all three categories is the winner.

So you have to do well initially, improve, and show some increase in lean body mass (LBM). So as you can see above from Garrett’s photos, he saw a big difference in his LBM. What’s very interesting to me comparing scores within the Paleo Challenge (which you can see here) is that Garrett and Karen went about winning the Paleo Challenge differently. Garrett was first place overall in the initial WOD, and still managed 7th in improvement. So while he did really well initially, he still made a big improvement in four weeks.

Karen was 4th in the initial WODs, and 6th in her improvement. She crushed the photos though (which I’m still harassing her to let me share :)) and that put her over the top.

We tell our athletes in Class 1 of Foundations: “Focus on performance, and aesthetics will come”. We think the Paleo Challenge does a fairly good job of reinforcing this.

We only do these Paleo Challenges 2x/year. If you’re interested in getting started with Paleo sooner, you can check out our quick start guides here or email for info on our Nutritional Consultations.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 141009]

Elite Alcohol Fueled Performance: Part II

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Nov 05 2014


Last week we talked about the basics of why you shouldn’t drink and alluded to why you should via pop-science and 11th Century Persian poetry (PS. If you haven’t read Khayyam, you’re missing out!). This week I want to talk about how you should go about drinking:

1) Drink with people you like. We are, like ants, bees, wasps and wolves, a pack species.
2) Drink clear liquor, brown liquor and/or wine. Skip the beer, gluten is bad. Vodka fucks you up just as good.
3) Drink during the day. Eat a big meal after, then go to sleep!

Follow these simple rules of thumb and you can get all the benefits of drinking without as many negative effects. And as always, if you need more help, I’m available for personal training at either Potomac CrossFit or Clarendon Ballroom.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 141002]

Elite Alcohol Fueled Performance: Part I

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Nov 04 2014


There are a plenty of athletes in the gym that are very high performers, very strict Paleo eaters, and very admirable drunks. While I only meet two of those three criteria, I’ve still seen a lot of performance increases over my last eight years of CrossFit and living in Arlington, the day drinking capital of the world.

My advice to my nutritional consulting clients and my Paleo Challengers is simple and ripped off from Robb Wolf: “Drink as little as possible to maximize performance, and as much as necessary to maximize your sex life.”

“BUT HOW MUCH CAN I REALLY DRINK BRIAN?!?!?!?” is the question I often get. Well let’s look at why you should minimize first:

  • Alcohol blunts protein synthesis. Alcohol in your bloodstream will decrease the amount of amino acids your body can use to form complete proteins which grow and repair muscle tissue.
  • Alcohol decreases your energy levels by dehydrating you. Because alcohol is a diuretic, it will expel water from your body that’s necessary in the creating of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a key chemical compound in Kreb’s/Citric Acid Cycle, which is how the body uses food for energy.

There are plenty of other reasons to skip or reduce alcohol consumption (and there’s a longer rundown from Bill Imbo here), but hopefully that’s scared you a little bit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m with Malcolm Gladwell and Omar Khayyam on the wonderful relationship between man and booze, but we need to look at the why and how to make half way decent non-Fireball based decisions. Next week we’ll discuss the question of “how much” and “how to”. Until then either cloister thyself or enjoy drinking prior to eating the fruit of knowledge.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140925]

How to Teach a CrossFit Class

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Sep 23 2014


  1. CrossFit Level 2 Certificate Course Training Guide & Workbook
  2. Brian Wilson Training Articles


Our CrossFit (or WOD) classes have a consistent structure with one endstate in mind: improved fitness for the client.  This will result in improved retention for the gym and improved ability and job satisfaction for the coach.

Our coaches are expected to master the three aspect of a CrossFit class: Rapport, Command and Flow

Each our classes is broken down into three parts: Warmup, Strength/Skill Development, Conditioning.  The intent of our consistent structure is to allow coaches and athletes to train more and better within the hour long class.

Three Aspects: Rapport, Command and Flow.

These three aspects are both distinct and blend together.  Coaches will develop these three aspects by consistently coaching and receiving feedback from other coaches and athletes.

Rapport is “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.”  This is achieved by three things:

  1. Knowing and referring to your athletes by name.
  2. Talking to your athletes one-on-one.
  3. Teaching and talking to your clients individually.

Command is your ability to lead the class through your presence, mastery of the subject matter, and ability to deal with friction.  You should look and act professionally.  You should know how to effectively teach and correct movement.  You should be able to maintain your demeanor and creatively deal with foreseeable and unforeseeable issues that come up in class.

Flow refers to your ability to lead the class through an entire class while minimizing friction for you and the athletes.  This is done by adhering to and mastering our class structure, building rapport with clients, and ensuring you have a plan.  Like playing chess, you need to be thinking 3 or 4 moves ahead.  You need to clearly and briefly explain the tasks and intent of what you want the clients to do.  Few things are more detrimental to flow than a lack of energy in the class.

Class Structure.  

Our class structure allows for a maximum of training during our class.  Great baseball players don’t get good at baseball by listening to a coach talk for 30 minutes and playing for 30 minutes.  They get good by playing ball.

Our class structure allows experienced clients to predict what will happen next and make their necessary individual preparations.  It further allows you to focus on new athletes at the beginning of each part, and experienced athletes at the end.

Lastly it allows for the “Kindergarten effect.”  Rather than having to correct new athletes constantly, they can look around and imitate their peers.

One last note: Play music when you’re not talking. Loud music.  Don’t play music when you’re addressing the group as it undermines your command, encourages experienced athletes to ignore you, and causes new athletes confusion by not being able to hear you.

  1. Warmup.  First 20 minutes of class.  Our warmup is broken down into three parts:
    1. Dynamic Mobility/Monostructural Movement.  Coaches will use the first few minutes of class to either have athletes perform “Red Line”, Double Unders, or running.
    2. Next, a combination of movements performed “Every Minute on the Minute” (EMOTM), usually eight minutes long.  These consist of a barbell skill, a core movement and an alternating upper body push/upper body pull.  Athletes who have been training less than six months should use a PVC so that a) they can practice movements under minimal load, and b) you can identify new athletes.
    3. Last, coaches will lead athletes through mobility.  Utilize barbells, lacrosse balls, foam rollers, bands and/or bodyweight to mobilize the muscle groups being used during the rest of the WOD class.
    4. Coaches should have attendance completed by the end of mobility.
    5. Utilize mobility to make gym announcements from the blog, demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter, and build rapport.
  2. Strength/Skill Development.  Our strength/skill development consists of barbell strength on Mon/Wed/Thu and gymnastic EMOTMs on most Tue/Thu/Sundays. Group demonstration and explanation should be kept as brief as possible.  Do not use more than three cues per movement.  Talk to each athlete during this time and get as in depth as you need to to improve their movement in the time available.
  3. Conditioning.  These consist of traditional CrossFit metabolic conditioning workouts (METCONs).
    1. Ensure appropriate load, scaling and space for each athlete.
    2. No more than three cues per movement.
    3. Encourage people and be very vocal during the METCON.  Use people’s names.
    4. Ensure equipment is cleaned and put back at the end of the workout.
    5. Encourage people to write their scores on the whiteboard and comments section of the blog.


By consistently practicing and attempting to improve your abilities in terms of rapport, command and flow, you’ll produce a fitter client who will stick with you longer.  By using our class structure, you maximize your ability to develop these aspects and your clients’ fitness.

Paleo Challenge Liftoff!!!

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Sep 11 2014


So the Paleo Challenge is in full swing. You can do the play at home version by following through our Paleo blog where we post helpful info or through our FAQ for basics on how to get started.

The biggest question you might have is “What’s in it for me?” My answer based on running hundreds of people through this diet is: everything. Want to get #sexyasfuck: do Paleo. Want to improve your performance in CrossFit: do Paleo. Want to improve every aspect of your health from auto-immune deficiency to staying more awake and alert after lunch: do Paleo.

There’s plenty of excuses that you can offer yourself for not doing Paleo or doing a watered down version. But compliance gets results. It might be hard at first, but you just have to have some skin in the game either through a Paleo Challenge or doing some 1:1 nutritional counseling. So help us help you, there’s bacon and being #sexyasfuck in it for you.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140911]


You Are All Unique and Beautiful Snowflakes

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Sep 09 2014

We talked the other week about obsessing about single workouts, numbers or movements and how it can be detrimental to your long term fitness. This week I want to talk about how you can attack a weakness in a very simple and effective way: by adjusting your warmup.

Every day we do a warmup of barbell skill, core movement, upper body push and upper body pull. The goals of our warmup are:



  • Provide a moderate amount of intensity through a low volume of functional movements to prepare soft tissue, joints and CNS for high intensity/high volume functional movements.
  • Use moderate intensity functional movement as a screening for the rest of the WOD. If something hurts during the warmup, we try to fix it through mobility, sub movements in the WOD, or send you home because you’re too broken.
  • Practice functional movements as skill work.



With respect to the last piece, warmup as skill work, it’s very easy for us to adjust your daily warmup to try to improve certain movements. I often have new members just do overhead squats or front squats every day vice attempting a Hang Squat Snatch or Snatch Balance. I also have people work on their kipping Pullup or strict Pullup or toes-to-bar or pushups every day rather than whatever push or pull we have on the board.

This is really easy for a coach to diagnose and give you some advice, so just post to comments and we can help you with your goals.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140901]

Sport Specific Training: Ski Season

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Sep 08 2014

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We’re very happy to announce some free sport specific training classes for both our current members and prospective members starting September 20th at Potomac CrossFit(and October 11th at Patriot CrossFit and November 15th at Hudson Trail Outfitters). Our good friends at Hudson Trail Outfitters are sweetening this deal by giving away discounts to everyone that attends and raffling off a bunch of ski gear for the upcoming season.

What we’re going to try to cover in these classes is simple: how CrossFit can help your skiing. One of Coach Greg Glassman’s first world class athletes that he trained as a client was Eva Twarkoden, who won the bronze at the 1985 World Championships in the Giant Slalom. The Women’s US Ski Team trained with Coach Glassman briefly and while they saw terrific improvement in their skiing with the addition of CrossFit in general, they found that adding significant volume of pullups had the best correlation with improvement on the slopes.

So the dirty little secret of these workouts will that they will be sport specific, but only in that we’re going to find the common issues that we’ve seen with skiers and explain how they can be fixed with CrossFit. We’ll see common mobility problems, such as extremely poor hip mobility, lack of strength (believe it or not) in unilateral movements such as the Pistol and lunge, and awful explosive power (even though skiiers usually spend a lot of time doing plyometrics).

While each athletes is different, athletes in certain sports display similar issues. But through regular training in CrossFit and addressing individual deficiencies we can improve your fitness, improve your skiing, and make you more fun to be around (because you’re just going to talk about CrossFit all the time with your friends….).


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140828]

“Single White Female” CrossFit

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Aug 28 2014


The things that I’ve seen lead to the most injuries are athletes fixating on one thing that they “should” be able to do, and not remembering that fitness is by definition your ability in “broad time and modal domains.” But athletes say “fuck that, I want to do 30 Muscle Ups for time” or “fuck that, I want a 400 pound squat” One workout or one movement doesn’t make you a better athlete, being passable at a lot of things does.

I’ve had two serious injuries in my CrossFit career and they stem from these two fixations. When I started CrossFit in 2006, I really wanted to be able to complete the “30 Muscle Ups for time” WOD that I’d seen on the main site. I geeked out on Muscle Ups a lot (here’s me doing some sirious video analysis in 2008 at the Pullup bars behind my job site). After attempting that workout in 2008, I’ve had sirious elbow issues ever since.

Last spring I was really frustrated at my squat numbers because I couldn’t get over 385, so I added volume by back squatting and front squatting every week without taking any back off weeks. The results of this has been over a year without normal heavy squats. I’ve worked up to being able to 3x5x245 Box Squats because my knees can’t handle normal weighted squats. I did thrusters for the second time in a year last Tuesday, but could only do 75 lbs because my knees couldn’t handle 95 lbs.

We want you to attack your weaknesses, but we don’t want you to be totally obsessed with them. Yes, you should come in on days that there are movements that you are weak at. But no, you shouldn’t be staying up at night thinking about how bad you want a 400 lbs squat. You need to listen to your body and not be crazy.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140814]